An Online Community of Practice for LSP

by Ann Abbott

At the recent Languages for Specific Purposes (LSP) Symposium, I participated on a panel titled "Where's the Community in Languages for Specific Purposes?" Deb Reisinger (Duke) presented about the possibilities for French, Community Service Learning and LSP. Lourdes Sánchez-López challenged us to try to understand why there are not Spanish community service learning courses in all or almost all Spanish programs? Diana Ruggiero (U of Memphis) shared insights from her program, and I was most captivated by the reading she gave of one of her student's photo journals. Barbara Lafford (Arizona State U) suggested a clear path to creating and institutionalizing our LSP community of practice. And I talked about our online community of practice.

Normally I prepare slides and speak extemporaneously, but for some reason this time I wrote it out. Due to time constraints, I abbreviated my remarks during the presentation. Here they are in full.

Where is the community in LSP?

In the March 2015 issue of the PMLA, a special section on “The Changing Profession” focused on the role of public intellectuals who share their expertise online and explored “the divide between public writing and academic writing” (Loofbourow and Maciak 439). For Languages for Specific Purposes (LSP) and Community Service Learning (CSL) specialists, this divide is further vexed because the “academic writing” side of this dyad is not as stable and esteemed as it is in other disciplinary areas such as literary analysis and linguistics. In other words, LSP and CSL specialists still struggle to be recognized in both academic and public venues. But if online writing “should be understood as valuable public engagement” as Loofbourow and Maciak claim, then this is especially consistent with the values and practices of our fields. So, quite simply, I urge all of you present [and now reading this] to build our community of practice through public writing. I will focus on social media.


As I stated in a blog post on the NOBLE website, working on CSL and LSP at my own institution was lonely, frustrating and even demoralizing at the same time that it was uplifting, engaging and community-focused. I began to blog because I had a lot to share but no interlocutors. Times are different now than in 2007 when I started blogging, but only recently (and I mean very recently) has my department begun to truly consider the viability and importance of these two areas as indeed areas of scholarly inquiry. Maybe. And that’s only because of alarmingly prolonged trends of equally alarming declining numbers of students. You might have a different why, but you need to know what it is because doing public writing is an investment of time and energy.

What should you share? 

These are the elements I feel that our profession still needs to produce and share in places that are easily accessed: 

  • course syllabi
  • detailed lesson plans or unit plans
  • helpful online resources
  • book and journal reviews
  • annotated bibliography
  • examples of student work and perspectives
  • community member and expert interviews
  • your stories--your process (not just products), your successes and your failures.

Where should you share? 

Share on your own channels. Start wherever you already are on social media. If you have a blog, blog, Write LinkedIn posts. (Our LSP colleague Steve Sacco is very good at this.) Film vlogs on your own YouTube channel. Do a podcast, Pinterest boards, Facebook notes, a Facebook page, and any kind of posts on social media (Snapchat stories, tweets, Instagram photos). 
By the way, we should decide upon a hashtag so that we can easily find this work. #LSP #CSL?)  
Guest post on NOBLE or someone else’s blog. 
Amplify other people’s posts. Hit like. It truly expands the post’s reach. Share. Retweet. Link to it. Share with your colleagues and students. Assign as reading to your students.

Final Reflection. 

Some people are afraid to share, but I find it to be actually liberating. If you regularly put your ideas out into the public sphere, you will find yourself generating more and more ideas. Don’t keep your great ideas and great work to yourself. People often write to me about how helpful my blog has been to them, and I average about 4,000 visits to my blog each month. (That's not a huge number, but who would imagine that so many people would be interested in CSL and LSP?) So while working in this field might still be lonely in my department, I know I’m not alone. As Loofbourow and Maciak conclude: “To occupy this position [as semipublic intellectual], with its potential rewards and pitfalls, is to be an academic in the Internet age--aware of all the barriers, real and imaginary, between the ivory tower and the public sphere” (445). That's a perfect space for us to build an online community of practice.

Loofbourow, Lili and Phillip Maciak. “Introduction: The Time of the Semipublic Intellectual.” PMLA 130.2 (2015). 439-445.


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